Arts Administration: The Importance of Interdepartmental Collaboration

Today’s blog post is written by Alex Pagano, Documentation Manager, PatronManager.

In a meeting last week, a colleague and I were discussing off-hand how amazing some of our coworkers are. I can’t remember which of us said it first, but we both repeated it immediately:

“Thank god for the sales team.”

I feel fortunate to work with a team of people excited by goals and tasks I honestly find intimidating. They’re passionate about sales in the same way I’m passionate about producing clear and concise documentation; it’s what makes them tick. I’m fascinated and grateful, and I feel similarly about client support, product development, marketing, and everyone else that makes the world go round here at PatronManager. It takes more than a team of myself to achieve the greater good.

With this in mind, think of someone at your organization who works in a totally different department than you. Do you know what their responsibilities are? What about their strengths? What do they enjoy about their job? What challenges do they face day-to-day? Heck, let’s start with the basics — do you know what they’re working on this week?

It’s pretty easy and natural for us to get tunnel-vision in our own departments working on the numerous tasks at hand. That’s understandable, but when we put those blinders on, we lose sight and appreciation for our colleagues — and in doing so, we lose the potential for the kinds of collaboration that make our organizations stronger! For example, maybe your development director could give you some pointers on how to approach a potential sponsor, or maybe your production manager has some wisdom on the best way to run the post-show meet and greet.

By recognizing your coworkers’ strengths and tapping into them for use in your own departments, you can create a more cohesive organization. So how do you open those lines of communication up? Here are two suggestions:

First and foremost, I would suggest starting a weekly email status report tradition. The idea behind this being that each department head would submit a brief description of what their team is focused on that week, all of the blurbs are compiled, and then ideally, your executive director would send them out to your whole organization in a single email. “Brief” being the key word here; these emails should take only two minutes to write and read. 

Here’s a good example of a departmental blurb: “The development team is focused on tying up details for this weekend’s fundraiser and exploring potential grants for next year’s ‘Artists in Schools’ initiative.” Perfect. Now everyone at your organization is automatically in the know about the goings-on of each department every week. This sets your organization up for more clear lines of communication and more possibilities for collaboration. Better yet, this kind of email gives everyone at your organization a little more appreciation for the work their coworkers are doing — and might remind you that other departments are tackling huge projects that are critical to the success of your organization. 

My next suggestion might seem quite obvious, but I implore you to get to know your colleagues better, and I don’t just mean over drinks at happy hour. Learning how each others’ brains work will help you learn the best ways to communicate with one another. An easy way to do this in a work setting is to have everyone take a personality test (my team has used this one in the past), and have a bit of fun talking about your results over coffee or lunch.

Remember, our different personalities and working styles are a strength to utilize, not a hoop to jump through. Bringing your teams — and those fresh perspectives — closer together could be just what your organization needs to move to the next level!

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